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List: questions to ask during a job interview

sylwiavargas profile image Sylwia Vargas Updated on ・11 min read

As I have recently again gone through the stressful ordeal of job interviewing, I wanted to record my process so that if you are currently job searching, or soon will be, check out other posts in this series.

Today I will share with you the interview questions I found most efficient in checking for the team culture, work structure, as well as for the potential red flags. This is a list of questions I crowdsourced in the majority.

What are the questions you like to ask? Also, what do you usually check for? ✨


Table of Contents


Why do we ask questions?

The American (or corporate?) way of interviewing is so different from what I am used to. The designated time to ask questions to the interviewer was initially really shocking to me because I worried that if I ask questions, I would come across as a person who hasn't done their research about the company. But then I realized that:

  1. as much as I am being interviewed, I am also interviewing them - I know that getting a job is the ultimate goal but getting a job at a toxic workplace, or a workplace whose values do not align with mine might quickly turn into a curse;
  2. questions are a way for me to showcase what I care about - this I realized only after I interviewed a person who kept asking only for the money and how one does the job the fastest because they want to freelance on the side ;-;

How do you choose questions to ask?

These prompts for self-reflection helped me choose the questions to ask an interviewer:

  • What is the role of my interviewer and what insight can they bring into the conversation that others can't?
    • I view the interviews as an opportunity to genuinely learn about the company, the team, the job, and the person; because of that, I rarely "recycle" the questions (but that is not a bad practice!)
  • What are my long-term professional or personal goals?
    • thinking about how this job aligns with them and if that's unclear, thinking of questions that will help me get more clarity on that
  • In what environments do I thrive? What work/team structure works well for me?
    • so, for example, learning about the day structure, about how people collaborate, the time off, etc.
  • What do glassdoor (or other) reviews tell me about the place?
    • maybe there is something that is a potential red flag that you could get more clarity on?
  • What my values are and what do I expect from the workplace and from the job?
    • for instance, I care about kindness, empathy, collaboration, transparency, and inclusion so I ask a lot about these values
  • What do I want the interviewer to know about me that they don't know yet?
    • questions tell the interviewer what you care about; for example, if you want them to remember that you're a person who values work-life balance, ask questions about that and maybe even say that in the intro to the question;

Now, the questions I ask are rarely direct. For instance, if I want to know about kindness, I would ask about examples of how conflict is typically resolved, or about team moments that made this person feel warm and fluffy. Oftentimes the stuff that's missing from the answer is telling more than the actual contents of the answer. For instance, if an interviewer struggles with telling me about any nice moments, that's a potential red flag and I'd ask a similar question in my next round to the next person.


Resources and shoutouts

I did not come up with the majority of the questions below and before I share them, I wanted to give shoutouts to folks who contributed. Many of them came from:


The list of questions that worked for me over the past three years

All these are in a very random order, clustered by arbitrary categories.

My all-time favorites

Please note that these questions reflect heavily on who I am and what I value.

(I'm sad that I need to add this but this is the reality of being a woman in tech: This section is not an invitation for your take on my personality and my chances of finding employment.)

My favorite questions:

  • anyone: What do you like most about this team? (and, follow-up: what do you think your colleagues appreciate most about you?)
    • I'm checking for general vibe and kindness
  • anyone: What would you say are the most stressful aspects of the role?
    • I'm checking for transparency but also for the stress levels (and causes)
  • manager: Six months from now, how will you know you've hired the right person for the job?
    • I'm checking for expectations and their measurements of success
  • manager: How will you measure the success of the person in this position?
    • I'm checking for their measurements of success and their evaluation process
  • anyone: what is feedback culture here like? Also, do you have any process in place for peer day-to-day feedback, any unwritten traditions? (and, maybe a follow-up: what's the most valuable feedback you got from a peer here if you want to share?)
    • I'm checking who gives feedback to whom, how, when, and whether the feedback is something that's appreciated
  • anyone: if you think about the team now, what are the common characteristics the team members share? And, what is missing in the team?
    • I'm checking for the general vibe, the values but also the team's self-awareness with regards to the (lack of) diversity
  • anyone: what are the main drivers for burnout in the team, as you've observed? What do you wish people who start out here knew to prevent fast burnout?
    • I'm checking for empathy, considerations for well-being, and transparency
  • anyone: what would you say are the current biggest hurdles for the team and the company? What is the plan to tackle them?
    • I'm checking for team resilience, for handling stress as a team, for structure, but also for potential organizational chaos
  • anyone: what is the day, the week, the quarter, and the year workflow like?
    • I like to know how the day is organized, when people take breaks, etc. I usually ask a lot of follow-ups here about time off, together-time as a team, collaborations, evaluations, etc.
  • anyone: how do you handle onboarding, training, and professional development?
    • I'm checking for the support structures and the work pace
  • anyone: I see this is a predominantly male (white) team - why do you think that is? What conversations do you have as a team about it?
    • I'm checking for the considerations for the diversity/inclusion, and the level of comfort to handle such conversations
  • anyone How do you support junior developers?
    • I ask this question even when I don't interview for a junior role; I want to know if the seniority levels are well-distributed across the team, if there's a support structure, and if I will get to mentor anyone (I love teaching)
  • anyone: Is there something I haven’t asked that you think I should have?
    • Surprisingly, I always get very interesting answers here!
  • anyone: What does success look like in this role?
    • I'm checking for what the person/team values and for success metrics
  • anyone: What do you expect will be my biggest challenge during onboarding?
    • I'm checking for the stress levels in the team and for the structure for onboarding
  • manager: How many people take their full time-off allocation? What checks do you have in place to make sure that they do?
    • I'm checking for the consideration for wellbeing and work-life balance
  • devs or manager: does the company have internal documentation (technical and not)?
    • "If they say they are struggling with this, it's a red flag. Documentation is one of the key things to help someone onboard into a new role in a company. Not documenting your processes or even understanding more how the company works together is a problem" by @dana94

Hiring process

  • What are the phases of the interviewing process here? When could I get feedback on how I came across?
  • What's the timeline for making a decision on this position? - When should I get back in touch with you?
  • Could you tell me about the benefits package that is included in this role? (ask clarifying questions)

Individual

  • How did you get your start in this field? Why do you stay?
  • What attracted you to working at this organization?
  • What have you liked most about working here?
  • In what ways has working here surprised you, compared with your expectations as a candidate?
  • How long have you worked here? Why are you still here?/What keeps you here?
  • What, if anything, do you hate about working here?
  • What's your leadership style like?
  • manager: How do you build trust with your direct reports?
  • manager: As a leader, how do you build team culture?

Position

  • Thinking back to people you’ve seen do this work previously, what differentiated the ones who were good from the ones who were really great at it?
  • hiring manager or peer: What specific skills from the person you hire would make your life easier?
  • What are some of the challenges you expect the person in this position to face?
  • What are the biggest hurdles to overcome in this position?
  • What are the top three criteria you are looking for, in the successful candidate for this position?
  • What is the worst mistake I could make if I had this job?
  • Six months from now, how will you know you've hired the right person for the job?
  • How will you measure the success of the person in this position?
  • What do you expect will be my biggest challenge during onboarding?
  • What do you see as the main responsibilities for this role?

Department

  • Can you tell me about the other members of the team?
  • Collaboration is important to me. What processes do you have in place to promote good communication, both within the team and with other teams?
  • What's the biggest change your group has gone through in the last year? Does your group feel like the tough times are over and things are getting better, or are things still pretty bleak? What's the plan to handle either scenario?
  • What do you feel the team is missing most at this moment?

Company

  • How many people have joined your company and left your company in the last year?
  • If you could change one thing about the company, whether it's a process, technology used, or anything else, what would it be?
  • How many people take their full allocation of leave each year?
  • What is the rhythm to the workaround here? Is there a time of year that it's "all hands on deck" and we're pulling all-nighters, or is it pretty consistent throughout the year? How about during the week/month? Is it pretty evenly spread throughout the week/month, or are there crunch days?
  • What goals or objectives need to be achieved in the next six months? Next year?
  • What is the organization’s plan for the next five years, and how does this department or division fit in?
  • Are there formal metrics in place for tracking and rewarding performance over time?
  • Where does this department fit into the structure of the organization as a whole?
  • What are the most common reasons people leave the company? Why do they stay?
  • What types of people are most successful here? What type of people are not?
  • About which competitor are you most worried?
  • What's one thing that's key to this company's success that somebody from outside it wouldn't know about?
  • How do you handle onboarding, training, and professional development?
  • If you could change one thing about this company, what would it be?
  • I see you have several programs to support women at the company. What metrics do you track to know if they’re effective? And do you share that data?
  • What are the primary challenges women have in this industry? What is this company doing to combat those?
  • I’m hoping to join a company where I can grow in my role and make a real contribution. I’ve seen that a growing number of companies are choosing to publicly report their gender composition and the gender pay gap. Is this information available here?
  • Do you measure employees’ job satisfaction here? Can you share information about how job satisfaction at this company compares to industry and national norms?

Engineering-specific

  • What’s your code review process?
  • How do you support junior developers?
  • Why did you choose this particular stack?
  • What defines a senior developer in this company/on this team?
  • In what ways do you ensure a high standard of accessibility of your products?
  • Do you hold team retros, and if so, how do they look?
  • What does your feature implementation process look like?
  • How do you estimate the time of assigned deliverables?

Questions for a recruiter or nontechnical screener

  • What’s the job description?
  • What are the three main qualifications the employer is looking for?
  • Are you working with this employer exclusively?
  • What is the reason for the open position?
  • How long has the job been open?
  • Why has the job been open a long time?
  • What is the interview process?
  • Where is the job located?
  • How many of the women engineers are senior, and how many were promoted internally?
  • How do you address or prevent salary disparities?

Questions for empathy, vulnerability, and transparency

  • Tell me about a time you had to give someone critical feedback
  • Tell me about a time you’ve helped someone improve
  • Tell me about a time your impression of a person or situation was incorrect
  • What considerations and policies are there in place to make this workplace inclusive?
  • What was the least successful team you’ve been on
  • Tell me about a time where you and a report disagreed on the path forward, and what the resolution looked like.
  • Tell me about an employee whom you grew.
  • I’d describe myself as a feminist - do you think I’d be a good fit for the team?
  • Describe your “perfect” employee/colleague
  • Tell me about a time you failed at work, and what you learned from it.
  • Tell me about the best employee you've managed. What made them great?

Photo credit

Cover photo by Ann H from Pexels

Discussion (15)

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sharkham profile image
Sam Markham

This is excellent, thank you so much for sharing! I will definitely be using some of these in interviews coming up :) I particularly appreciate your notes on who the questions are for and why you're asking some of them!

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sylwiavargas profile image
Sylwia Vargas Author

Thank you for this feedback. I feel that job search is so stressful (especially if you’re new to the field) that in itself it requires a lot of “studying”. We oftentimes tell people what to do but not our motivation behind it. I worried that the notes would make the post a bit too lengthy so I appreciate your feedback!

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sharkham profile image
Sam Markham

You're very welcome! And yes, I definitely agree about the job search being stressful and requiring studying. For my part, I've spent a lot of time looking up good questions to ask in job interviews, and have used some of them, but haven't always been sure why I've been asking them other than to have something to say? Hearing about the motivation behind asking the questions is super helpful, both for situations where someone I've asked a question asks me to clarify what I mean, and for framing follow-up questions. (And just, deciding what questions align with what I really want to know!) I think the length of this post is a feature, not a bug--and the table of contents helps too!

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Dana Ottaviani

This is wonderful.

A question I find myself asking is: "does the company have internal documentation (technical and not)?" If they say they are struggling with this, it's a red flag. Documentation is one of the key things to help someone onboard into a new role in a company. Not documenting your processes or even to understand more how the company works together is a problem.

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Sylwia Vargas Author

I sooooo agree (especially that currently I work as a technical writer and my job is to maintain good docs). I'll add this question to the list!

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beendra profile image
Alexandra

Needed this post! Great write up Sylwia

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sylwiavargas profile image
Sylwia Vargas Author

Thank you, Alex!
I felt very lost three years ago and definitely not ready for job search in the US and I just want to make it easier for others 💕

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Francisco Quintero 🇨🇴

Well, this looks awesome. I'm taking many from here to add to my personal list

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sylwiavargas profile image
Sylwia Vargas Author

Awesome! Do you have any other personal favorites that have worked for you?

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cescquintero profile image
Francisco Quintero 🇨🇴

Yes, I do. Here in Colombia we have lots of holidays (18 xD) and whenever I'm interviewing for a foreign company I have to ask about them. Also, I don't like time tracking, I need to ask about it.

The ones I consider important are:

  • Am I required to log working hours?
  • Do you accept Colombian holidays?
  • What's the preferred working hours?

Depending of the size of the team these ones also matter to me:

  • Is there a QA team?
  • Is there a DevOps team?
  • Do you work under agile methodologies?

The list is constantly being modified as I learn how to make the right question to get the best answer.

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sylwiavargas profile image
Sylwia Vargas Author

Ohhhh these are all terrific! The one that stood out to me was the one about the Colombian holidays — this is also something I usually ask because in Poland we tend to take longer time off during Easter and Christmas than in the US.
Thank you!

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tonydanza00 profile image
Tony Edgal

This is actually nice, I love how the questions are tailored.

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sylwiavargas profile image
Sylwia Vargas Author

Thank you ✨

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Waverley Leung

Thank you so much for this resource ❤️ I appreciate how you organized your questions based on who to ask them to (especially for individuals)! Will be using this as a guide for the future 👀

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Sylwia Vargas Author

Thank you for this comment, Waverley! I hope you will get the answers you're interested in!